Dale and I chat to Byron Brewer for Dynamic Forces about being authorial co-pilots, 80’s horror, and how they have gotten to know the characters in our Vertigo horror comic, Survivors’ Club.
Dynamic Forces: Dale, the basic premise of Survivors’ Club comes from an idea of yours. Tell us about that notion and are you a horror fan?
Dale Halvorsen: I’m the Blob of horror – absorbing all horror into my person and regurgitating it in disturbing new configurations! I watch everything from Suspiria to Session 9, Basketcase to Beetlejuice to Troll 2. For me (and many others) the 70s and the 80s was The Decade for horror movies. Survivors’ Club was born out of that primordial soup. So getting to do a comic book that draws on that source material is right in both our spooky wheelhouses.
The idea for Surviors Club was born while rewatching Child’s Play one evening. I wondered what happened to all of those kids from 80s horror films after the credits rolled.
DF: Interesting. Lauren, tell us how you became involved in the comic and a little about how Dale and your collaboration works.
Lauren Beukes: Dale and I have been long-time collaborators. By day he’s an award-winning cover designer and illustrator who works under the moniker Joey Hi-Fi. His first ever book cover was for my first ever book and he’s gone on to do all my book covers since then – as well as beautiful work for people like Chuck Wendig, Nnedi Okorafor and Charlie Human.
But we’re also best friends and we hang out and watch a lot of horror movies and talk about story ideas all the time. He’s been freaking me out for ages talking about ideas for the horror comic shorts he’s working on, but then he mentioned this one particular idea and I nearly fell off my chair in excitement. (The same way he fell out of his chair the first time I showed him my favorite horror movie, The Audition.) I pitched the idea to Shelly Bond at Vertigo and she loved it.
The way we work together is, as Dale describes it, “like creepy playtime.” We sit and talk through the plot and the characters, act out scenes (those improv classes came in handy!), talk through the dialogue, which we often record for later reference, and generally try to freak each other out. Then eventually we sit down and write together.
Lauren “flying fingers” on the keyboard, Dale in co-pilot position, the Chewbacca to my Han Solo. I have more experience in this whole writing thing, Dale’s ideas are golden, he’s terrific at ad-libbing dialogue, researching the most disturbing things and coming up with killer plotlines and vicious twists. It’s the best collaborative partnership we’ve both ever been in.
DF: Tell us about the storyline.
Beukes & Halvorsen: We started with the premise: what if the 80s horror movies were real and where are those kids today and started looking at the genres we could riff off and subvert. The first arc is about Chenzira bringing all the Survivors together to figure out what happened to them all in 1987 – and stop an old horror from resurfacing.
DF: Who are your protagonists in the book?
Beukes & Halvorsen: They’re all Survivors of some spooky stuff that went down in 1987, now all grown-up and mysteriously drawn together in LA. Chenzira’s a gamer, convinced the video game she played as a little girl that opened up a gate to hell is back and it’s up to her to stop it. Simon is a Z-list celebrity, coasting on his infamy as the real-life survivor of a notorious haunted house that has gone on to become a huge horror movie franchise. Alice is cool and beautiful and detached, living in a big house in the Hollywood Hills all on her ownsome – or, maybe not quite. Kiri has a dirty secret riding her and a day job that brings her in to contact with the scum of the earth. Teo’s the skeptic paramedic (Scully to Chenzira’s Mulder), but that doesn’t explain the oozing wound on his neck and Harvey… well Harvey has violent tendencies and a voice in his head who wants to kill them all.
DF: This is a book that has its origin in the modern-day love affair with the internet and social media. Tell us about how that works in this series.
Beukes & Halvorsen: It’s about the way we live now – with cell phones, and interconnected lives and Twitter and Facebook and forums. It becomes much harder to keep a secret – and what happens to those secrets if they fester. The first arc of the story with a The Ring-style horror tale, about a killer game rather than a haunted video tape, but it’s been very challenging to work out how to keep that contained. We did a lot of research into cult games like the urban legend of Polybius or the real, recent creepy game called “Don’t Believe His Lies”. There’s a lot of interest on social media and on Reddit and 4Chan about creepy horror games that affect your mind. So a big part of what Chenzira is doing is trying to stop this game getting out.
Want to know what they’re talking about? Order now from your local comic book store or you can buy the whole series in digital from Comixology right now!